Dearest girls, tomorrow you will be three. You have been two for one day less than a year and let me tell you, what a year it's been.
We spent your second birthday travelling back to our funny little steading house in Evanton. We were renting it before we moved to London. Three weeks after your second birthday we moved. Your daddy drove us to the airport, your great-granny met us there, together they put us on the plane to London, your great-granny cried. There was a hairy moment as we were climbing the steps to the plane door, Ella heard the engine and froze, Ammie tried to keep climbing but the steps were too tall for her little legs, and as we were the first to board every single passenger on the flight stood on the steps and the runway, waiting behind us while I tried to persuade Ella to keep walking and help Ammie up off her knees. Eventually we were in our seats and I started unpacking my survival kit that I had been putting together in a desperate attempt to get through a flight by myself with two two year olds. You were perfect. You spent the whole journey playing, ripping up the wax from your tiny cheeses and dividing it between the plastic cups the air steward had given you. You weren't quiet but then I've never expected children to be quiet. Fuck them if they don't like your noise, you be heard. When we got to Gatwick you ran off down the glass tunnel over the baggage reclaim and every time I've gone down that tunnel since I've seen Ella in her tiny teal woollen coat, greeting her life in London with toddler sized glee. Then you both got tired and grumpy and mummy needed coffeeand I'm almost certain that you cried and grizzled all the way into London on the train until you eventually fell asleep in your pushchair, for the first time in months. That night you slept sprawled on a blanket on the floor, like tiny romper-clad drunks. We had moved to London.
This year has been hard, I won't deny it. That thing people say about terrible twos? Like most things people say it has some truth in it. There were tears and screaming and collapsing on the floor, from all of us. Two is hard, it's hard for parents and it was really hard for you. You were learning but not fast enough to give you the freedom and understanding that you wanted. You so desperately wanted to do things but you could not possibly understand why you weren't allowed and when you weren't allowed you were furious. You were getting bored but you were also so tired, your growth spurts exhausting you so that you still needed a good big nap in the middle of the day. You were curious and grumpy and completely unreasonable. Punishing us when we left you, treating us with disdain whenever one of your grannies was around, wilfully ignoring everything we said and telling us that were naughty, bad, silly, smelly. It sounds funny now but the vehemence with which you threw those words at us cut us to the bone. But oh the sweetness, the sweetness of two made all of it worthwhile. 'Mummy, are you sad?' 'Mummy, do you need a hug?', your awareness that other people have feelings was a milestone, your willingness to give affection and your desire to comfort others came just at the right time, just when it seemed that you were really trying to kill us with your demands and tantrums. And you started to seem to like each other, which I won't deny was a relief. When you didn't think we were looking you started playing together, inventing games and sharing and cooperating, then you realised we were watching and went back to fighting and whinging and more often than seemed necessary biting, scratching and gouging. Ella learned that she was faster and taller, Ammie that she was stronger and that her rage burned brighter. Ella, when she could, stole Ammie's things, not because she wanted them but because she wanted to hide them from her, knowing that it would make her incandescent with rage. Ammie in return would bite, push, scratch and yell.
Ammie, over the last few months you've worked so hard to learn some self-control and I am so proud of you for it. I know how hard you struggle, how strong your emotions are, that they rise like a flood tide through you and you can not see anything but injustice, feel anything but tage and despair. The day when instead of biting Ella, you clenched her fists and yelled 'ARGHHHHH BITE YOU' at her I was so proud of you that my heart ached. I know how hard it was for you not to just clamp your teeth around her arm and use your tiny powerful jaw to express all the fury was coursing through you. Emotions are hard, I struggle with that too. So often I just want to scream and yell and throw myself on the ground crying. So often these days it's only wanting to set you a good example that stops me. I hope one day you will understand that we will always have at least that in common. Alongside your rage comes the greatest, warmest love in the world. As intensely as you feel anger and desperation you feel love and affection and joy. Ammie, you give the greatest hugs that there ever was. You wrap your little strong arms around my neck and you squeeze me so tightly that it hurts. Then you kiss me, little sloppy open mouthed kisses that leave my face wet. Anyone who gets one of your 'great big hugs' is very luck. I love the strength and the power in you. I love your rage and your fury and your love and your fire. You are always warm, you don't get cold hands, your limbs are soft and kneadable like warm bread dough and when you curl in my lap to read a book or watch tv, your wild curls tickling my chin, you are my hot water bottle. You look more and more like your daddy and I see his concentration and determination glowering from your brow when you are confronted with something that doesn't make sense or just something really quire serious that demands a lot of respect, like milk.
Ella, your independence and your brightness astound me daily. You are always learning, always listening. Your sense of humour is more sophisticated than most of the adults I know. You do voices and accents, you play with language and you take delight in making us laugh. You will not perform on demand though, your urge to do your own thing outweighs your urge to entertain. Your urge to do your own thing, never to give in, outweighs everything. On your more difficult days I call it stubbornness, your daddy; sheer bloody mindedness. You would rather miss out on something you really really want than give in and do something someone else has told you to. You remind me so much of me that it scares me. One day I will tell you the stories about the Easter chick and the back seat of the bus and I hope that you will believe that we are made from something similar. I am learning to only pick the really important battles with you but I think that it will be a long road. A while back you went through an extreme independent phase. Maybe once a week you would agree to a hug, never a kiss, and while your sister was revelling in being 'a little baby' you were quite determined that you were 'a big boy', telling us so many times a day, dressing only in trousers, only in blue and getting really very cross if anyone suggested that you were either a baby or a girl. Then, just as suddenly as it arrived, it passed and now you are neither girl nor boy but 'a baby bunny'. You will let us hug and kiss you again and I am so glad. I love to feel your long arms and legs wrapped around me, to stroke your delicate shoulder blades and feel your whispy fine hair tickle my nose. I love to feel that for a little while longer you are my baby, because I can see you striding off into the world on those wonderfully long legs any day now and while I know great things wait for you out there, I don't want to let you go.
Both of you have the most wonderful language skills and pretty much daily something you say makes us laugh. You have parents who love language and who will rarely tell you that you'rve got a word wrong, often preferring your version anyway. As such you will likely go to nursery and be mocked mercilessly. I'm sorry about that. Even if being laughed at is too much for your lexicon to survive, it's very unlikely that your daddy and I will drop the wonderful things you said in that year you were two from ours. Our clothes will never again be too small or too big but always 'too fit'. Going out for dinner will always be 'fahncy', not fancy. It's unlikely that either of us will evera sk to be excused but always 'please maybe squoozed' and on cold mornings I will always brew my coffee in a chocolatey ear.
My girls, tomorrow you will be three and it seems so sudden. I remember this night, three years ago, as clearly as any night. In fact infinitely more clearly than any of the nights since, because you two have royally scrambled my brain. Early fireworks popping and whizzing as I lay quietly in the darkness waiting for you to arrive. Tomorrow we will take you to see your first firework display, you'll probably hate it and complain of the cold and the darkness and the noise because as much I would love to imagine otherwise, I'm almost certain that the irascibility of two does not stop with three. In fact I've heard it gets worse. Oh well. Along with everything that might get worse with this coming year I am absolutely, entirely certain that you're going to keep getting better too. That your love and your sense of humour and your curiosity and your conversation and your friendship with each other is going to grow and grow and grow and that your daddy and I will continue to think that you are two of the best people to ever walk this earth. Happy birthday baby girls.